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Pro athlete Hannah Cornett has all the right moves


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POSTED: Saturday, December 06, 2008

The photographer shooting actress and professional surfer/athlete Hannah Cornett at the Westin Moana Surfrider last week chuckles at the ease of his job. The light doesn't matter. Nor does her location or pose. She looks fantastic doing everything. Even more so when it's revealed that she left behind all the glamour last year to teach autistic children at Kapolei Middle School.

“;I needed a break to get refocused and reconnect with myself,”; says the 26-year-old Cornett. “;There was too much going on there (in Los Angeles). A lot of selfishness. It's a bubble. But working with kids was incredible. Suddenly the makeup, the hair, the clothes — none of it mattered anymore. The small things with them were the highlight of my day.”;

When she finally moved back to Los Angeles after her eight-month teaching stint, which included a two-hour dawn patrol surf session every morning at Barbers Point, “;everything exploded,”; she says. Cornett landed a starring role in “;Surfer Dude”; with Matthew McConaughey (slated for DVD release this month), and even completed some of the water stunts — for him.

Currently, she's filming a reality series for Lifetime Television that follows her daily life as a professional surfer. But she also competes as a professional triathlete in the XTERRA off-road series, so of course the show tracks her swim, bike and run training as well. And that doesn't include her many acting and sports modeling gigs.

“;Reality is all staged,”; she laughs about the show. “;None of it is real.”;

If that weren't enough, Cornett also travels the world as executive producer and host of “;Sports Explorers,”; a new 14-episode action/documentary-type series that scouts out innovative sports, such as base jumping, and the people who develop them. With four shows completed, the series will premiere on the Web at goarmy.com before moving to ESPN.

A natural athlete who swam, biked, skateboarded and was the first girl on the boys' soccer team as a youngster, Cornett began dabbling in plays when she was five. She moved to Hawaii from Ohio at age 17. After graduating from high school, she received a soccer scholarship to Baldwin-Wallace College. Just two years after learning to surf in 2006, she turned pro, and also began racing the XTERRA mountain bike triathlon series.

“;She's self-directed and self-disciplined,”; notes her mother, Nancy Cornett, who recently left her job as a physician's assistant at Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center. “;Even as a child, she was very good at making a goal and determining how she was going to reach it, and doing that on her own. She's a very hard worker, and optimistic. There's a natural athleticism, but there's also a real desire to succeed.”;

For several years, Hannah has used Kapolei as a her part-time home and a safe place to land, especially in difficult times.

And she's had more than her share lately. Several months ago at a race in South Africa, she crashed and suffered a head injury. It left her with memory problems that rendered her unable to train, compete or recite lines for auditions. Her memory has since returned to normal, however, and she stayed fit with power yoga classes. But then another tragedy hit. Just a few weeks ago, a car accident killed her father in California.

“;It's tested my faith and my life — everything,”; she says slowly. His enthusiasm for sports has inspired her to move forward. But not without a short break in Hawaii to “;stare at the ocean and be thankful for everything I have.”;

Meanwhile, her busy schedule keeps her going. “;Now it's more about leaving a mark,”; she says. “;I want to see what I can give back with what I've been given.”;

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See some of Hannah's demo reels at www.hannahRcornett.net.